Family Vacation, Millennial Style

Rusty Griswold: Dad, this isn’t the car you ordered.

Clark Griswold: Settle down, Russ. Ed (car salesman), this is not the car I ordered.

--National Lampoon’s “Vacation”

Summer travel season is upon us, and I just returned from a few days in Yosemite with family, nieces, a nephew and good friends. Aside from amazing hikes in Yosemite and great times with family and friends, the trip was a somewhat eye-opening as I watched kids interact with technology and be disconnected from their devices all at once. 

Smartphones, tablets, casual games and photo sharing have replaced the days of boring road trip bingo, and the boredom that comes with hours of driving with kids, although there still is not an app to keep kids from repeatedly asking “are we there yet” or “how much longer” and the occasional argument over which territory lines not cross in the back seat. What I found amazing is how kids find ways to entertain themselves and share across multiple devices in the car and with friends thousands of miles away. 



Parents using smartphones and tablets as pacifiers during car trips certainly isn’t new or breaking news – observing kids in action, in this manner, was new to me. Watching 10 and 13 year olds take screen shots of Waze maps to share on Instagram was interesting. Kids using Waze to search for a restaurant or bathroom break was entertaining, and it also highlighted some pretty cool “native” ad solutions in app (well done, folks over at  We found a lot of Taco Bells on this trip! My hunch is that team over at Waze didn’t plan for this product use but with insight, I can see a great mash-up with brands and maybe even the people at AAA to search for ways to stay relevant in the world of GPS-enabled devices, cars, etc. I can think of a variety of API solutions with a lot of utility value for family road trips. 

Watching kids use Instagram and Snapchat to play highway bingo with friends thousands of miles away was interesting. I don’t suggest brands or marketers conjure up ways to get in the middle of this sharing (see my previous paragraph about what is doing). I am suggesting ways for brands to understand how Millennials are using their devices to share, what they are sharing and the insight about how they share. Is there place for an appropriate brand to surround or enable this conversation? Absolutely.

As marketers, we typically get behind the one-way glass to observe people and how they behave, interact and even share. My suggestion is that you get behind the steering wheel and use a road trip with a few millennials as your next focus group about how marketers can learn from these kids about new ways they share and innovate with tools that may have never been meant to be used the way they are using them. 

I’m already looking forward to my next long road trip to see what the kids in the back seat can teach me.

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